News Update

CEOs' economic outlook hit the highest level in at least 20 years. But Omicron could change that

The influential trade group the Business Roundtable said Wednesday its CEO Economic Outlook Survey rose during the fourth quarter to the highest level in its 20-year history, surpassing even the lofty levels seen after the enactment of President Donald Trump’s tax cuts in late 2017.
“These historically positive results may seem surprising, particularly in light of ongoing uncertainty over the trajectory of the pandemic, supply chain disruptions, inflationary pressures and the threat of substantial tax increases,” Business Roundtable CEO Joshua Bolten told reporters during a press conference in Washington.
But there is a caveat: the survey of business leaders was conducted between November 3 and November 22, prior to the Omicron headlines, Bolten said.
“Continued progress in defeating the pandemic, including new variants, will be necessary to sustain strong growth into the second half of 2022,” Walmart (WMT) CEO Doug McMillon, who also serves as the trade group’s chairman, said in a statement.
CEOs indicated they planned to increase hiring and business investment, and they also expect higher sales.
Nearly half, 48%, of the CEOs surveyed identified labor expenses as the greatest cost pressure facing their businesses right now.

Omicron could ‘put a damper on things’

Bolten acknowledged the Omicron variant has the potential to disrupt the economic recovery, but he said it’s too early to say for sure.
“If it does turn out to be as dramatic a shift as the Delta variant was, that will definitely put a damper on things,” Bolten told reporters at the DC press conference.
But he cautioned that the trade group’s CEO members are adopting the view that it’s too early to assess Omicron’s potential economic impact.
“We don’t know, because the experts don’t know. Everyone’s got fingers crossed that it’s not too bad,” Bolten said, later adding, “It’s TBD, with a lot of people pretty concerned.”
Despite the Omicron news, the CEOs still plan to convene in Washington on Thursday.
“Pretty much everyone who said they were going to show up, is showing up,” Bolten said. “We are following a very tight protocol of insisting that everyone who enters the space get vaccinated and recently tested, including staff, vendors and caterers.”
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